Monday, June 30, 2008

No Burping Allowed

The premise of the idea in today's For Better or For Worse is that young Michael Patterson is burping so he can practice to get better at burping. Naturally, Elly disapproves and tells Michael never to burp again. I find it amusing that Michael would not burp for the sheer enjoyment of it, and is instead working for professionalism. It kind of seems against the Patterson code to practice something to get better at it.

My son likes to burp. I am sure that you are amazed that a 12-year-old boy would like such a thing, but he does. My wife and I tell him to say, “Excuse me,” after he burps. We have learned something that apparently Elly Patterson back in 1979 did not know, which was that sometimes people don’t burp on purpose, but they can always say, “Excuse me.” We tried to accommodate that gastronomic fact with good manners.

So, now my son will let out a huge burp on purpose and then say, “Excuse me.” Is my method better than that of Elly’s in 1979? I still think so. At least our method allows a guy to practice.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gah! More Pervo Reprints!

Today's For Better or For Worse is an interesting mix-up. Lawrence is wearing the Charlie Brown-style sweater, Lynn Johnston occasionally put her child characters in the first year of the strip to remind you she stole heavily from Charles Shulz. However, the material being covered definitely steps out of the range of Shulz material into the wonderful world of mother-son psychology.

1. The premise of Michael Patterson's argument is a request of sympathy from Lawrence Poirier. He is essentially stating that his mother is constantly mad at him, and with very little provocation, i.e. just looking. In other words, Michael thinks his mother disapproves of his every action, even ones so innocent as just looking at her.

2. Lawrence does not believe that Elly Patterson is constantly mad at Michael and questions Michael's honesty. Lawrence has obviously seen Michael expand the truth before. Like any observer of these 1979 Michael reprints, Lawrence is like us, when we realize that young Michael was a little hellion and not all his behaviour can be blamed on Elly Patterson.

3. Then the last panel payoff is that Michael explains that when he was just looking at his mother, she was bathing. From his innocent perspective, he apparently thinks there is nothing inappropriate in staring at his mother bathing herself. Freud would probably have a different opinion on that one. The more interesting perspective is that of Lawrence Poirier, who appears to physically collapse on hearing Michael's statement. It's easy to grasp why Lawrence collapsed. He is probably:

a. Horrified at the thought of a naked Elly Patterson.
b. Horrified that his friend Michael would want to look at a naked Elly Patterson.
c. Horrified at the thought his friend Michael liked looking at his naked mother and moreover, would consider such a thing to be something over which he should not be punished.
d. Horrified at the thought he almost felt sympathy for his friend Michael Patterson.
e. Came to the sudden realization that he must be gay, because he doesn't like to look at his naked mother bathing.
f. Wishing he had a different best friend.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Phone Etiquette

I remember years ago getting a lecture on how to answer a telephone, after an occasion where I did not answer the telephone properly when I was 9 years old. My dad’s boss called the house, and I honestly do not remember what I did; but I do remember my mother informing me I was not to do it again. Before that time, I don’t really remember answering the phone.

Today’s For Better or For Worse reminded me of that situation, and it rings somewhat true, except for a few things:

1. I would have never handed the phone over to my little sister, because it would have given her a status of being able to handle the phone, something I would not have wanted her to have.

2. The part about the person on the other end of the phone hanging up would not have happened either. The way my mother found out how I had answered the phone all those years ago, was because my dad’s boss told my mom (who was not present at the time when the phone rang) how I had answered the phone, when I finally found her and handed over the phone.

3. The person on the other end of the telephone line swearing at little Lizzie could happen, but marks the person making the phone with extremely inappropriate behaviour also. Even during my phone conversation at age 9, the person on the other line did not swear at me.

Elly Patterson is handed the telephone and will probably be perturbed that the person hung up, but we will not see that interchange. Elly wondering out loud why the person hung up, with a guilty-looking Michael in the background might have made for a funnier strip. Even back then, Lynn Johnston often did not think situations all the way through for staging her humour.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When April Met Johnnie

In all probability the discussion between Connie Poirier and Elly Patterson about young Michael Patterson on Saturday will lead into some 1979-80 strips about Michael starting on Monday. Normally, I would dread such a period; but this week I will be at the top of lovely Mt. Lemmon at the Camp Lawton Boy Scout Camp for a week and away from anything technological. So, I actually hope it is reprints, so I don’t miss any of the action.

Today’s For Better or For Worse strip is a strange one which caps off a whole week of strange. Mutilated heirloom dresses. Deanna demonstrating hitherto unknown sewing skills. Deanna’s lecture to Elizabeth about how she is not ready for the brutalities of married life. Deanna and Elizabeth squabbling over who can use Elly for a full-time babysitter / parent in order to prove which one is the worst mother or mother-to-be. The view of Connie Poirier’s side yard. Connie Poirier hitting new heights of ugly. And to top it all off, we have 8 solid panels of John Patterson having an orgasm in a massage chair. That’s pretty long for a man-gasm; unless John is faking it, like Meg Ryan did in When Harry Met Sally. I believe April Patterson is taking the Billy Crystal part.

On the one hand, it is easy to tear about the basic idea behind today’s strip as stupid. Or the easy target is to make a joke about how long it has been since John has gotten any, and that’s the reason for his extreme reaction. However, I will note that what we have here is a passive Patterson letting his emotions run free. For 8 solid panels in a For Better or For Worse strip, we can see genuine joy on the face of a Patterson. Really, how long has it been since there has been a happy Patterson featured so prominently in the strip? Too long, I would say. So, John Patterson, if you are able to throw off those Patterson shackles and enjoy yourself to the fullest, then I say, here’s to you. Don’t let April repress you with her embarrassment. Be happy! Enjoy life! I am so glad to see a happy Patterson, I don’t care if the reason he is happy is he had an orgasm while fully clothed in a public massage chair.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Elly Patterson: Full-Time Parent

It was sort of a joke in yesterday's For Better or For Worse when Elly said that she couldn’t leave her babies with strangers, but apparently Connie Poirier did not take it as a joke at all. She actually asks the question, “Do you really want to be a full-time parent again?” to Elly. And Elly actually answers the question seriously. Is she saying that Michael and Deanna leave their kids with her for such long periods, that Elly could think of herself as a full-time parent? Thank goodness this is Saturday and will hopefully put an end to this nonsense. Otherwise tomorrow we would have Elly talking about the labour pains she experienced bearing Robin and Meredith, and how she is responsible for paying their expenses for the rest of her life.

I know when we saw Elizabeth come back from Mtigwaki to live in Elly’s house, I was astonished to see her in the fetal position in her bed holding a stuffed bunny. I could not believe that Lynn Johnston had taken her character that low, and I still can’t. It was unbelievably excessive, as if Elizabeth had serious mental problems.

Now, the way it is coming off, Lynn Johnston is taking Michael and Deanna’s parenting to such a low that Connie is sincerely asking Elly if she wants to be a full-time parent to her grandchildren. Are Deanna and Michael, who took care of these kids for the first years of their lives with very little help from Elly, now being dragged as low as fetal-position Elizabeth? This storyline dumbfounds me.

Fortunately Elly breaks away from that subject and once again confirms her favourite child was Michael, and credits him with making her the woman she is today. I am not sure that is intended to be a compliment, because the woman she is today is “tired”. Connie laughs at that one, for some reason. However, if what she said before is true, then incompetent parent Michael is making Elly tired. At least this time, when Elly leaves out a child, she includes Elizabeth in that list along with April for a change.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Elly: Is There Any Mom Greater?

I remember this one well. My wife’s dad and step-mom have long maintained that their son’s wife is a complete boob when it comes to taking care of their daughters. Their house for their granddaughters then became a place where they tried to teach her all the things that she should have been learning from her incompetent mother. Needless to say, the grandmother and the mother don’t get along too well.

It is one thing to lavish praise on Elly Patterson, because that has been a focus of the strip for years now. However, it is another thing for characters, who had previously been portrayed as somewhat competent to now be turning into “I can’t do anything without Elly”. Deanna Patterson started the week, with what appeared to be a lecture to Liz about how tough marriage is. When Liz makes a grab for Elly Patterson’s baby-sitting skills, the lecture changed into a confession that Deanna and Mike utilize Elly for baby-sitting 5 days a week and take advantage of her. Gone are the days of Ardith Narayan, their one-time sitter; or any idea that Meredith would be in kindergarten and Robin in childcare. This idea has left even the most ardent reader scratching their head as to why it would be necessary for Elly to baby-sit so much.

Connie Poirier is playing the devil’s advocate for Elly’s babysitting martyrdom. In today’s strip, Elly referred to Meredith and Robin as her babies, showing that she has been sitting them so long as to consider them her children. Connie’s voice of reason is that Mike and Deanna should find other baby sitters. If this strip heads the direction I expect, then we will see Elly find a childcare place for Mike and Deanna, for which they will be eternally grateful.

Honestly, I can’t see any purpose in this story arc except to set up Elly praise and those are the dullest and most irritating strips of For Better or For Worse.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Elly Patterson: Tied Down and Shackled

It’s an interesting thought from today’s For Better or For Worse. I would have gone with “buried” or “planted” to play off the activity, but Connie goes for the same choices as your standard dominatrix. Go figure.

Connie Poirier takes Elly to task for making herself available to her kids no matter what time of day or night, and they have taken advantage of her and turned her into a daycare. As usual, we don’t see this 5 days a week business. All we had was one visit by Mike and Deanna to Josef Weeder and Carleen Stein with Elly keeping the kids late at night. Considering Connie’s jokes about being tied down and shackled, the implication is that Deanna’s 5 days a week statement is the correct interpretation, and not an occasional occurrence for a trip to Toronto to wrestle Weed, so to speak. Flying in the face of the daily routine though is today’s strip, where we see Elly planting and not taking care of kids. So, unless today’s strip is supposed to represent a weekend, then I don’t know how to interpret the level of daycare Elly is providing for free to her kids. Neither showing nor telling is clear in this case, and it is unfortunately increasingly the way the strip is.

Of more interest to me this week, was the interrelation between Deanna and Elizabeth Patterson. Deanna showed previously-unseen skills in sewing, while sending these basic messages to Elizabeth:

a. You don’t know what it’s like to be married.
b. We will be there to support you when you fall.
c. Don’t take our baby-sitter. We need her more than you do.

At each point, Elizabeth denied Deanna’s statement. She thinks she does know about marriage. She doesn’t care if Deanna supports her or not, as long as she doesn’t get in the way of using Elly for a baby-sitter. I don’t know what Lynn Johnston is up to here. You would think Deanna and Elizabeth would be on the way to becoming very good friends, but the statement qnjones made in a comment earlier in the week about Deanna’s position as number #2 female next to Elly being threatened, looks more like the case.

When you get right down to it, there have been few moments of sisterly affection with Elizabeth over the years. Lynn Johnston has shown a few from time-to-time, but more often she has delighted in showing Elizabeth and April picking on each other, even as they have gotten older. It is possible that now Elizabeth is getting married, she has set Deanna as her target for rivalry; since marriage for April will be well into the future considering she has 1 more year of senior secondary and 8 more years of university ahead of her as a future veterinarian. By that time, Elizabeth’s first child with Anthony will be at least 8 years old, and Elizabeth should be well past rivalry. I hope.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Baby-Sitter, Thy Name Is Elly

I remember the good old days in For Better or For Worse, when I used to point out that Mira Sobinski was constantly over at Deanna and Mike’s place, while Elly Patterson would only agree to take the kids when there was an emergency or when they were brought over to her house. How times have changed. And more importantly, how suddenly they have changed.

Originally the plan detailed in Mike’s letter was how Meredith and Robin were going to go to the same place every day.

Mike's Letter, April 2007

Having children changes you in so many ways. You seek permanence and security for their sake. Merrie will be going to a new school in September. Because we're certain we'll be living in this area, she's been enrolled at H.G. Davis Public School, the same elementary school I went to. It now has a daycare program, so both she and Robin will be at the same place at the same time, and it's just a few minutes from here. They are already getting used to being away from Ardith, who has taken care of them since they were babies, but we stay in touch and visit as often as possible. Fortunately, little ones make new friends easily and will meet new children when September comes along.

We never saw the events of this letter happen. In fact, we did not see Meredith for even one day in kindergarten at H.G. Davis Public School.

Then the next plan was that a sitter handled the kids while Mike wrote.

Then it was April as a baby-sitter. Then back in February, it looked like Mike was working as the househusband with his kids. And now, just within the past month, it is Elly who handles the kids, all the time. The only thing consistent about it is that, just like it was back in Toronto, Elly really doesn’t want to spend time with her grandchildren. Today she complains she already raised her kids (notice once again how she forgot April is still in her house).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Deanna and Elizabeth bond…sort of

I made jokes about how Deanna and Elizabeth never seemed to talk to each other, because one is single and the other is not. I sort of thought the idea was an accidental interpretation, because my sisters and I got married at different times, and when I brought a girlfriend home to meet the family, it was my sisters who were the ones to really check the girlfriend out, to see if she would be acceptable to pal around with them at family gatherings.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, we see Deanna Patterson make an offer of friendship to Elizabeth Patterson, soon to be Caine; and it really hammered it in home. Deanna says, “Trust me, marriage is a real challenge, and I wanted to let you know that we’ll be there for you, Liz. Any time you guys need anything, let us know, OK?”

There it is. She is offering because Liz is getting married, and Deanna’s experience is that a married woman needs a support system. The idea is certainly true, but by offering it now, it is as if Deanna is saying that either Elizabeth did not need her help when she was single, or that Deanna did not truly believe that Elizabeth and Anthony would get together, so she didn’t offer her help before. I made a joke about it, but it appears to be Lynn Johnston’s actual interpretation.

I am intrigued by how a For Better or For Worse comic strip would be with Deanna and Elizabeth sharing parenting tips and play dates. Scenes of sisterly bonding not like the violent ones between Elizabeth and April, could make for some interesting dialogue. On the other hand, I look back at Elizabeth, post-university and I realize that we should have already had those moments. Elizabeth graduated 4 years ago and it is not until now that Lynn Johnston is writing a scene between Deanna and Elizabeth without Mike butting in and picking a fight with Liz. And mind you, this is even when they were all living in the same house from January to July last year. There were 7 months without one scene of Auntie Liz and her niece and nephew or sister-in-law.

There are so many missed opportunities in this strip. However, one of the ones Lynn Johnston did not miss today, was she drew Elizabeth and Deanna’s head shape and jaw line different in every single panel. Lynn may not be able to recognize good stories anymore, but she never seems to miss an opportunity to show us her consistently inconsistent drawing skills.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Every Character Has a Part, Part I (Deanna)

A lot of weird jaws in today’s For Better or For Worse strip. This is one of these things that makes me think this cannot possibly be Lynn Johnston drawing the strip; because this is a significant style change, and not a style change where the artist is trying to make things look more cartoony. If you look carefully, you will see that the jawline makes a long arc all the way up to the ear, when the drawings are anything but facing front. The ears are also placed back on the head relative to the neck. The effect is that it makes the characters look as though they are Barbie dolls with a detachable head. Another distracting style is Liz and Deanna’s heads in an exact profile. The eyes are set too far back into the head and the lips are drawn where the upper and lower lip are the same length. Lynn Johnston usually makes the upper lip, much longer than the lower lip. This the "lips of loveliness" effect she often uses with Liz and Deanna. It is not there in today's strip.

As for the content of the strip, it seems to be following the flow of the “Each Character Does Something For the Wedding” which will culminate with some of the final characters making outlandish presentations to the wedding. In today’s episode, Deanna plays the part of seamstress, a role she has not had before. In the monthly letters, she talks about knitting, but we have never seen her knit.

As far as characterization goes, Deanna is actually arguing against Liz and Anthony getting married. This would make sense for Deanna. However, I get the impression Deanna is trying to play the wise, older married woman part; but it comes off as “You and Anthony don’t know what you’re doing.”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father’s Day

It is Father’s Day 2008, and time to celebrate with a reprint of the very first For Better or For Worse Father’s Day strip. In it, we discover John alone on Father’s Day and rejoicing at his freedom. The joke at the end is that despite all this freedom, he misses his wife and kids. And really, when you look at what John is eating, wearing and watching on television; you can tell that John’s family does in fact make him a better man.

The part I find interesting about the strip is that there is a theme presented for Father’s Day from the very first strip which resonated throughout the series. That theme is that fathers would rather spend Father’s Day away from their kids. The whole idea of your kids pampering you and being nice to you is almost never presented by Lynn Johnston. There is also a secondary theme, which is that Robin and Meredith are brats of the highest order. Since this will be the last Father's Day of this strip, let’s go through the ones in the archive and compare them, shall we?

For the 2008 / 1980 strip – On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the highest:
Kid brattiness = 0
Family togetherness = 0
Happy father = 8

In 2007, Mike was assaulted by his kids until he was rescued by Deanna.
Kid brattiness = 2
Family togetherness = 5
Happy father = 2

In 2006, John spent the day working out at Pete’s Gym, thanks to a Father’s Day gift from April.
Kid brattiness = 0
Family togetherness = 2
Happy father = 10

In 2005,
Mike was assaulted by his kids until he was rescued by Deanna.
Kid brattiness = 7
Family togetherness = 2
Happy father = 8

In 2004, Mike was assaulted by Meredith with no rescue from Deanna of the morning sickness with Robin.
Kid brattiness = 8
Family togetherness = 7
Happy father = 0

In 2003,
Mike, John and Jim gather and are celebrated by the ladies, as April points out that Edgar is not a father since he was neutered. This strip is so happy and cheerful and so normal. It is how I spent Father’s Day when I lived in the same town as my grandfather. I should mention that this is the only Father’s Day For Better or For Worse strip, I like.
Kid brattiness = 0
Family togetherness = 10
Happy father = 10

However, just to make sure Lynn is not singling out the fathers, I checked the Mother’s Day strips too. The theme is a little different here. It is that mother is supposed to be treated by father, without any kids around. However, Robin and Meredith continue to be brats, in fact, they are even worse brats for Mother’s Day.

In 2008, Elly works and works all by herself, to pamper herself with a bath on Mother’s Day, with no kids or husband in sight. Trying to tell us something, Lynn?
Kid brattiness = 0
Family togetherness = 0
Happy mother = 8

In 2007, Deanna takes her kids to see some puppies, and is tortured the whole way by her children.
Kid brattiness = 10
Family togetherness = 0
Happy mother = 0

In 2006, Mike and Deanna drop their kids off at Elly’s who receives them gladly.
Kid brattiness = 0
Family togetherness = 0
Happy mother = 8

In 2005, through a series of fortunate occurrences, John Patterson is able to give many Mother’s Day gifts to Elly. There are 2 panels of April, though not in the same scene as Elly.
Kid brattiness = 0
Family togetherness = 0
Happy mother = 10

In 2004, Mike and Deanna drop Meredith off at Elly’s who receives her gladly, as Meredith screams her head off at her parents’ leaving, only be all smiles as soon as they are gone.
Kid brattiness = 10
Family togetherness = 0
Happy mother = 8

In 2003,
Mike handles a screaming Meredith as Deanna opens her Mother’s Day presents. This is my favourite Mother’s Day strip of the bunch. Even though Meredith is screaming in most of it, the family is together throughout and Mike is handling Meredith and not handing her off to Elly. Mike and Deanna even kiss at the end, showing this marvelous thing called marital affection, almost nonexistent in the modern strip. It reminds me most of Mother’s Day in my house, when my kids were little.
Kid brattiness = 10
Family togetherness = 10
Happy mother = 2

To summarize, my favourite Mother’s Day and Father’s Day strips in the For Better or For Worse archive were both in 2003. Considering the strip has been going steadily downhill every year, I don’t expect this is a surprise to anyone.

Friday, June 13, 2008


There is a certain element of writing for a particular character where you try to envision what that character would think or do in a situation and write it up. Then you have to look at it and say, “Is that something the character would really say?” For example, when I used to write up the posts for Constable Paul Wright on April’s Real Blog, I would go back through the dialogue and try to chop his lines into short sentences and eliminate prepositional phrases if I could, to imitate Paul’s style of speech. With poor Lynn Johnston in today’s strip, I can see she has lost that ability. Every character is a 60-year-old woman in Corbeil, Ontario. The reference to Woodstock was the funniest thing I have read in awhile in For Better or For Worse, because it was so inappropriate for the character.

However, ignoring the extraordinarily strange reference to Woodstock, the point that Anthony is making is a clear indication where the wedding between Anthony and Elizabeth is going to go. Why is that? Repetition, my dear readers. Repetition. Lynn Johnston loves it. Never do a plot once. Do it a hundred times.

Do you remember the simple star-gazing school class party which ended up with the whole community coming there, when Elizabeth was working in Mtigwaki? Well, guess what? Lynn Johnston does too. That story, my good friends, is what I think Anthony’s comment means. Get ready for Elizabeth’s wedding to be imposed on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Return of the Dress

We haven’t seen the dress since last March in For Better or For Worse, so it’s time to remind us what the dress looked like and that Gramma Marian wore it, just in case you were asleep for the last few strips. However, I think the real point is to establish April in her position as helper to the bride during the wedding sequence. I don’t mind the bonding moment between the two. It shows April still has her cynical side, and that might keep Liz grounded in this discussion about the miracle dress and the perfect Gramma who wore it. To honest, we really don’t need any more talk about how wonderful the dress is, or it will become tedious and excessive and a waste of story-telling panels. Consequently, that is why I fully expect we will talk about the dress some more in the days to come.

What we have not been addressed are the veil and wedding headpiece and shoes. How much was stored in that old crawlspace? Will they also fit? Will we have a Cinderella moment where Liz realizes the glass slippers that Marian wore are an exact match, and therefore she will marry the prince?

One thing that continues to strike me is how long Liz’s hair is compared to last month. I wonder what kind of hair style Lynn Johnston has in mind? Usually she goes for bunned hair, but this noticeable increase in length makes me wonder if Liz’s hair is going to be down for her wedding. That would certainly be different for this strip, but perhaps yet another response by Lynn Johnston to the constant complaints about the continually-bunned hair of the ladies in the strip.

Another important question is the mother-of-the-bride dress. Will Lynn Johnston allow Elly Patterson to be attractive? Or will she wear the same kind of conservative outfit she wore for Mike's wedding? Oh the questions. The questions.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In 30 Seconds, Once a Day!!

Lynn Johnston has seen fit to address the primary concerns of the Coffee Talk readers with respect to the relationship between Elizabeth and Anthony. Naturally I see fit to address her address.

A note from Lynn...

Ok, folks! Time to address a few of your concerns!

You're absolutely right. Elizabeth should have gone to visit her grandfather when she picked April up from his apartment. Trouble is...I have a limited time left here and every strip, now, is a statement that leads to the August 30th conclusion!! If I had sent her to visit gramps, it would have required perhaps 3 strips total to resolve interaction between them: the wedding, her work, his health, the dress and so on. Everything has a repercussion. - I have less than 30 seconds a day to lead you through the labyrinth of these characters' lives. So. I hoped you would suppose she did visit and was just unable to see him at this time! I was wrong. It was an omission! I'm grateful for those who read between the lines and know that there is something going on in everyone's life, and I can't show it all!

In this paragraph, Lynn Johnston introduces her theme, which is essentially, "I have limited time" and the time she lists is "30 seconds, once a day." I suppose this means she has timed how long it takes to read her strip. But to analyze it!? I say "Nay!" I take far more time than 30 seconds. It's interesting that she interprets the comic strip in terms of time. Really what she has is 3 panels of plot and 1 panel of punch line. I would think of it more in terms of "I have 4 pictures to advance a plot." It is also interesting that she is calling the conclusion for August 30th, when in the Cartoon Closet article, she said September 29. However, as I have pointed out before, Lynn Johnston has a hard time setting exact final dates for her strip.

Her explanation that she has to have 3 strips to show the interaction between Liz and Grandpa Jim does not hold water with me. Lynn is a creature of repetition. Back in January, the last time April visited Grandpa Jim, the sequence was almost exactly the same. April visits, tea is drunk, she plays for a going-to-sleep Grandpa Jim, then John picks her up and asks how Grandpa Jim is. What you have is the virtually same story except it's Elizabeth instead of John. And back in January, people complained that John didn't go up and visit either.

To be honest, Lynn packed a lot into last week. There were only 3 strips with Grandpa Jim and April, whereas back in January it took 6 days to do the same thing. The most frustrating part is that Lynn states in her excuse a plotline that would be far better than 3 strips of April doing her same old thing, i.e. Elizabeth is visiting her Grandpa Jim and they discuss "the wedding, her work, his health, the dress and so on." There's the better story. There's one which will push the wedding plotline forward and will actually show the Elizabeth / Jim interaction crucial for the reader to understand that Elizabeth actually does like, does visit and care about Jim. Moreover, it will show why it is important for Elizabeth to set a date for her wedding to include Jim. Lynn spells out this plot in her excuse, but for some reason doesn't seem to recognize it is the superiour story. She is so caught up in doing "April plays the guitar for Jim" again and again and again.

For those of you who oppose Anthony as a marriage partner for Liz. Please consider the fact that he has been closely tied to her family all the while she's been away at school and up north. John and Elly invested in, buy their cars from and constantly connect with Gordon Mayes who owns a successful automotive complex with Anthony now as manager of the repairs and maintainance division. Both Elly and John regard Anthony highly and ultimately, this bodes well for Elizabeth's future with him. She respects her parents' opinions. She knows his family, his past, his friends and his personality. His appearance as a successful single parent also says a lot about his ability to commit to and sustain a lasting relationship.l I haven't gone into a lot of kissing, embracing, "I love you dialogue" for fear of making you jump on me for being too saccharine!! I should have turned on the treacle!! Trust me, she does love him and she's confident enough in her choice, and he with her, that their relationship is easy. They simply know they're making the right choice and display their serious, physical affection privately!!

Anthony is the manager of the repairs and maintainance division? I had to go back and look, but there it is: Back in 2006, Anthony was put in charge of the garage, the store and the restaurant, according to John. In the paragraph, Lynn Johnston addresses the reason why Anthony is a good marriage partner for Liz

1. John and Elly like him. About this, I completely agree. After all, John and Elly pushed Anthony on Elizabeth when he was engaged, married, and with a child -- times when most other people might be looking for someone else for their daughter. The interesting part is that Lynn points out the reason for Anthony's success is directly dependent on Gordon Mayes. Gordon Mayes is even more successful than Anthony, and was also married and had a child. Presumably, the Pattersons also regard him highly. Unlike Anthony though, they did not push Elizabeth on Gordon for a marriage partner. Elizabeth may respect her parents' opinions; but I find them morally suspect.

2. She knows his family, his past, his friends and his personality. I can agree with all that except for the family part. Honestly, there should have been at least one strip where Anthony and Elizabeth visit with Anthony's family after they got engaged. However, it is nice to know that Anthony still has a family, and maybe someday we will get to meet them.

3. Good single parent = Good marriage partner. In other words, if your kid likes you, you must be great marriage material. I have 2 responses to this: Bunk beds for 3-year-olds. "I have no home!" Sorry, Lynn. A great kid is not the sign of a good husband. And really, of all people, you should know this.

The last part is Lynn's explanation for no love between Anthony and Elizabeth: Fear of the reader. Where was that fear when she showed Elizabeth with Paul, Warren, Eric and even Mason the best man? Despite Lynn's comment, I think she went "treacle"-less, in order to draw a contrast between those relationships and the one with Anthony. Lynn's statement that Elizabeth and Anthony display their physical affection privately is accompanied by a "Yes!" from me. I knew that's what she meant with the "Let's go home" strip and the "Check!" strips.

The problem with a visual art like this is that it's static. If these people were on a screen, moving and alive, the subtle exchanges, eye contact, expressions, teasing and so on would be charming and endearing. In film, you can avoid saccharine in the way the actors behave. In a comic, static image, all you see is the kiss. Is that too corny? Is what they say too boringly trite? How do you draw the subtleties required to make the reader feel these sweet, subtle emotions without saying- "what crap!"??? I dunno!!! I draw well- but not THAT well!! If I was producing a comic novel, I'd have the luxury of time and multiple kissing images in which to convey an exchange like this... Again, I have less than 30 seconds, once a day. So...I've given you more of their friendship and less of their physicality. A regrettable omission!!

This next paragraph is essentially an admission by Lynn that she doesn't draw very well. However, she defends herself by comparing it to a movie with lots of images, or a comic novel (graphic novel, Lynn). Suffice to say, anyone reading a Sergio Aragonés margin drawing in Mad Magazine can tell you that is possible to tell a lot of story with a few figures. There is no use arguing this point. Lynn says she doesn't draw well enough to convey subtle emotions and I have seen enough of her art to believe it. If you can't even put eyes straight on a character's head, how are you possibly going to convey emotions with your drawing? If Lynn wasn't about to retire I would suggest she check out Will Eisner's great book Comics and Sequential Art, which would tell her exactly how to communicate love between characters without them even laying one kiss on each other.

For those who say these young people have all ended up with people they've known since elementary school... and this is unusual: You're right! These days, we are all going well away from our families and meeting culturally diverse and exciting new people. That's real life. I'm sorta in a wierd fantasy capsule. Already I have more characters than most strips can manage. Adding new people is difficult, but a challenge I enjoy.

This next paragraph is a mass of contradictions. Real life is new people. I already have too many characters. But I enjoy adding new ones.

Every NEW character requires a series of portraits and a personal profile. They need a consistent "look" and personality, a place to live, a car to drive and a "style" unique to them. In order to accept the new character, the reader needs time (at 30 seconds a day) So, when it comes to a lifetime committment, it's easier for all of us to get a handle on and get inside consistent "actors"- people we've known for awhile and know something about- than it is to try and make a serious attachment to someone new! Both Paul and Warren were new...and though they were attractive and fun...what did you REALLY know about them? Not much...until Beth started to fill us all in!! That goes for ME, too. Beth's stories do what I could never do...( in 30 seconds, once a day!!)

This paragraph seems to say that she chose Anthony Caine as Elizabeth's husband because the readers know more about him than Warren and Paul. In many respects, this seems like a wise choice. I have certainly read a lot of comments that went along the lines of "I always hoped Elizabeth would end up with Anthony." Then she compliments Beth on filling in Warren's life story, probably because she realizes that, thanks to Beth's story in the Who's Who on the website, we now know more about Warren Blackwood than Anthony Caine. Thus, the basic premise of her argument is defeated. However, to be fair, let me compare Anthony Caine to Paul Wright.

a. Why did Paul Wright choose his job? To be a service to his people.
b. Why did Anthony Caine choose his job? It's the same job he had working summers in university. Gordon Mayes offered for him to keep it after graduation.

a. Did Paul Wright want to take Elizabeth to meet his parents? Yes
b. Did Anthony Caine want to take Elizabeth to meet his parents? Who knows.

a. What is the background of Paul Wright's parents? Father - Irish. Mother - Ojibway. Live in White River.
b. What is the background of Anthony Caine's parents? Father owns a business and has threw a New Years' Eve party in 2002. He also used to employ Therese Caine. Mother. Who knows? Live in Milborough.

a. Has Paul Wright ever done anything despicable? He cheated on Elizabeth with Susan Dokis, misled her into thinking he had his transfer to Toronto, and did not break up with her until she confronted him with it.
b. Has Anthony Caine ever done anything despicable? He married Therese when he was still carrying a torch for Elizabeth, humiliated Therese by throwing himself at Elizabeth in public outings, convinced Therese to have a baby and then complained to everyone he knew about Therese's lack of parenting, ignored Therese's post-partum depression, tried to convince Elizabeth to wait for him to end his marriage when his baby was just 5 months old right after Elizabeth was almost raped.

I guess I know Anthony Caine slightly more than Paul Wright; but that does not work in Anthony Caine's favour.

So, I hope that sheds some light on the writing and development process I use. That's not to say that every one of your opinions doesn't register or have great merit! You're ALL right and I appreciate your input and your discussions! Believe it or not, I do read what you say on Coffee Talk and it consistently amazes me to know how involved you are in the lives of these imaginary characters!!

I definitely believe she reads the Coffee Talk. We have seen so many retcons in the last year addressing Coffee Talk issues, it would be difficult to believe otherwise.

When the story is told, you'll be able to imagine what happens next. The great pleasure for ME will be in the retelling...because I'm going to add to and improve this saga...and that's a luxury few artists have!!

I believe this is a reference back to the idea that Lynn will be adding and touching up old strips, once she starts the chronological reprints.

Thankyou for writing and for reading my work. Sincerely, Lynn J.

You are welcome.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It’s Like Lynn Johnston Has a Camera at My Wedding

I have told this story before, but it actually fits pretty well this time. When I got married, it was during a time when it was considered social desirable for the groom to be involved in the wedding planning. It was some sort of crazy idea about how the wedding was his day too, or some such nonsense as that. After all, we guys just love strapping ourselves into uncomfortable formal wear to wear in front of our friends and family. So, my wife and her mother and her step-mother would, from time-to-time, ask my opinion on things. I would give my opinion. They would get a good laugh, and do it the way they planned to do it anyway. But, at least I was included.

I did find out, much to my astonishment, that my future father-in-law’s opinion ranked above my own. And so, in today’s For Better or For Worse, where I see John Patterson informed of the approximate wedding date of his daughter’s wedding before the groom is informed, then it takes me back to those days of marriage yesteryear.

As far as the strip goes, it has been awhile since Elly has thrown something at John’s head for a sexist remark. At least she is going for a softer item this time, than her usual coffee mug. In many marriages I have seen, John’s stance of “I don’t have to do anything” is not only sexist, but also very wise advice. His opinion would be not only not needed, but not wanted. I know if I were married to Elly Patterson, I would stay far away from the planning activities, and simply wait for the orders to come down from Wedding Central as what they wanted me to do. In fact, if I saw a room with Elly, Deanna, Connie Poirier, April, and Elizabeth; I would avoid that room at all costs. It would be a lot safer that way. Can you imagine poor John if he got caught in a discussion about whether or not Meredith or Françoise was going to be the flower girl? Actually I can imagine such a thing and it would be comedy gold. Now, if only Lynn Johnston realized it too.

Lawrence Lives in a New Article

New Article

Most of the article involving Lynn Johnston rehashes her 1993 “Lawrence coming out” strip. However there was one part involving modern For Better or For Worse I found interesting:

The good news is that Lawrence will be returning for a final appearance on For Better Or For Worse, before Johnston goes into partial retirement on September 29th, turning the strip into a “hybrid” of new strips and reworked older ones. “Lawrence has to do the flowers” for Elizabeth’s wedding, Johnston says, noting that he and his partner Nick run a landscaping business.

If true, this will be Lawrence’s first appearance in the strip where someone refers to him by name, since helping Mike to change apartments back in 2005. It also sets the stage for other For Better or For Worse characters to make contributions to Liz and Anthony’s wedding. Lawrence Poirier provides the flowers. Anne Nichols provides the catering. Josef Weeder does the photography. Maybe even Elly and Connie Poirier get together and sew up the bridesmaids’ dresses. Mike writes up the service. April does the baby-sitting, naturally.

More interesting to me is the way the strip change in September is now described. It is not described as it was back in the February 21, 2008 Chicago Tribune article:

Start from the beginning again, rerunning the old strips – but tinkering with some to “augment” or “fix some of the stuff”.

I could interpret “’hybrid’ of new strips and reworked older ones” that way; but I could also define that as what we have currently, especially since the word “hybrid” has been used again. The other thing which has changed is that ending date of “by September” is now essentially “by the end of September”.

As is usual with For Better or For Worse publicity statements, the only way to know for sure what will happen on September 29th, is to see what happens. If Lynn Johnston operates the way she has been operating, then we can expect some more publicity statements just as confusing as this one, with more changes to the way things are going to end if, in fact, they are going to end at all.

Monday, June 09, 2008

She Wants to Take Her Time

She wants to take her time. In today's For Better or For Worse, we see the reaction of Elizabeth Patterson again after April introduced the idea of Grandpa Jim dying before she ever gets married. Yesterday it was, “I don’t want to rush into anything. I want to take it one day at a time.” Today it is “I want to take my time.” What does this mean?

When I think back to my own engagement, this essentially started the clock. The next question invariably out of anyone’s mouth was “When is the wedding?” For me and my wife, the next step to answer that question had to do with figuring out what kind of wedding you want, and then to see if and when everything desired for that kind of wedding was available. There was also a consultation made with respect to the important players as to when they were available to come to the wedding. Then, if there are still more dates available after all that, then one is chosen.

If I compare my wedding directly to Elizabeth’s then when she says, “I want to take my time”, what she is really saying is, “I don’t want to start planning my wedding yet.” However, this is not really what she is saying. The line, “I really don’t want to rush into this marriage” is not the statement of someone who wants to delay the wedding ceremony planning, but a person who wants to delay the marriage itself. Without the usual reason for delaying a wedding ceremony like the future spouses are waiting until they graduate from something, or until someone returns from an overseas job; the reason for the delay can easily be interpreted as doubts about the relationship itself. You would think that if Elizabeth had those doubts, then she wouldn’t have accepted the ring in the first place, except that she seems to like to use it to deflect potential suitors. What Lynn fails to realize is that girls uncertain about a man to marry, don’t accept the ring. But Liz is supposed to be madly interested in Anthony Caine. Or was that mildly interested?

My impression is that Lynn Johnston is trying to make Liz appear sensible and wise by not jumping right into marriage. I think she realizes that relatively speaking, Anthony and Liz were not dating that long before they got engaged, and it will not be long before they are ultimately married. So, if she makes Liz hem and haw about it, then we will ignore that fact she is zipping into matrimonial bliss. Not including the dates Anthony and Liz had while she was dating Paul Wright, their first date was the Shawna-Marie Verano wedding which was June / July 2007. The engagement was March, 2008, 8 months later; and assuming an August, 2008 wedding, 5 months of wedding planning. Only Liz didn’t start planning in March. She hasn’t even started planning in June. We are going to see 2 months of wedding planning. In contrast, Anthony proposed to Thérèse in December, 2001 and married her in August, 2003 – a 20-month gap between engagement and marriage. However, they were both in school, so that made more sense.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Quick! Marry Before He Dies

I had a friend from Louisiana, whom I met in a singles group in Dallas. She was going through a divorce at the time. The reason I remembered this woman is because of similarities between her situation for her marriage and the situation presented in today’s For Better or For Worse.

My friend was an only child, whose father had passed away when she was young. Essentially, her family consisted of her and her mother. When she was in university, it was discovered that her mother had cancer and did not have a long time to live. There was this tremendous pressure placed on the boyfriend of my friend to propose to my friend so that her mother could see her married before she died. In fact, her mother was willing to do whatever was necessary to make this happen, including covering all the wedding expense costs and even the cost of the engagement ring. So, my friend and her boyfriend married. Her mother attended the wedding and died not too long later, with the knowledge that her little girl was married and was being taken care of.

The marriage did not last very long after their university graduation. Boyfriend and girlfriend relationships in university have a tendency to be superficial. I can well understand how a young man of 20 might find it very difficult to turn down my friend’s mother, in her situation, when he was only really dating my friend because she was very pretty. My friend did eventually find another man who wanted to marry because he was in love with her, and I believe they are celebrating their 19th anniversary this year in September.

For some reason, Elizabeth Patterson is playing this game with her wedding that is typical for many of the things that have happened in her life, i.e. she likes to let things happen to her. Her jobs magically appear. Her boyfriends magically appear. Even her cat magically appears. It is almost as if Elizabeth expects that her wedding will magically appear without her having to do a thing to set it into motion. After all, what does she expect will happen, when she says things like, “I don’t want to rush into anything! I want to take it a day at a time!” She has been presented this way several times, enough so that it is not coincidence. However, each time it happens I wonder if Lynn Johnston realizes just how ridiculous it is and how incredibly stupid Elizabeth comes off. If she doesn’t, then what we are waiting for is some person saying, “Oh, Elizabeth. I have everything set for a wedding, but my groom backed out at the last minute. I know you’re engaged, would you like to take over my wedding reservations?” I could see that happening, but maybe there is a limit of stupidity that even Lynn Johnston will not cross.

Now we are presented with the idea that Elizabeth will set a wedding date, for no other reason than she is afraid Grandpa Jim will die too soon to participate. And after all, she is planning to wear Grandpa Jim’s 1st wife’s old 1970s wedding dress; so it would be nice if Grandpa Jim was there to appreciate it and confirm to everyone that it is, in fact, Marian’s old dress. When you get right down to it, without the imminent death of Grandpa Jim, Elizabeth could go forever engaged to Anthony and never married to him.

There is part of me that wishes we are seeing a story of a very complex characterization of the relationship of Liz and Anthony. Lynn Johnston has presented compelling reasons why Liz might feel she needs to be engaged to Anthony Caine, and also compelling reasons why Liz is barely interested in the man and should never marry him. All the complex interactions are there in the strip, and it is maddening how they are never addressed.

In many respects, my desire for a better story has made it seem to me like Liz’s hemming and hawing over the wedding date was directly in relation to these opposing forces, and finally addressing the incompatibilities of the two characters in an indirect way. Unfortunately, what we probably really actually have is Elizabeth Patterson’s delay in setting a date is honestly and truly the “no rush, one day at a time” excuse. Elizabeth may well say, “I guess I will have to set a wedding date after all. Darn you Grandpa Jim for being so stinking old.”

To me, the better story is the one that close matches my friend’s wedding because of her mother. Liz marries Anthony because of pressure to get Grandpa Jim in her ceremony. Then later on, Elizabeth regrets the decision to marry Anthony Caine, for all the reasons Lynn Johnston has already presented about Anthony Caine’s questionable behaviour in his marriage and with Liz. I wish Lynn Johnston would use what she has already taken the time to set up, in telling this story.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Boy Scout trip

I will be out with the Boy Scouts this weekend, so Howard Bunt's Blog will have no new entries until late Sunday. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

April Retcon

In today’s For Better or For Worse, April has a conversation with Grandpa Jim that is essentially a recounting of all the things that have happened to her in the last year that we have not seen. There are quite a few things.

1. April’s summer job is going to be at a veterinary clinic in Milborough. This serves a number of purposes. We make jokes about April getting her degree and coming back to Milborough to work and marry Gerald Delaney-Forsythe, because all the other Patterson siblings have married their childhood sweethearts and moved back to Milborough to work. Apparently this is not a joke to Lynn Johnston. The appearance of a veterinary clinic in Milborough sets the stage for April to do just this. In some respects, it is a good thing the strip is ending, because this setup is so obvious, it would be painful to watch Lynn take April through vet school and back to Milborough to make Gerald babies. April would embrace one animal (as Elizabeth concentrated on bad, boy Dylan), who would basically treat her the way the horse, Tawny, did back in Winnipeg; and make her appear as though she were a bumbling incompetent. Gerald would take up with Becky McGuire, but he and April would have passionate hugs every summer when April would go back to Milborough to work for the same veterinary clinic, etc. Who would want to watch the Elizabeth story over again with April? Certainly not me.

Supposedly April has been continuing her work at Lilliput’s book store even after her mother sold the business, but we have neither seen nor heard that mentioned in the strip, only the monthly letters; so my guess is that this is not an official part of the For Better or For Worse canon. After all, if that were the case, then April could just as easily have been working at the veterinary clinic in town for the last year during after school or weekend hours. It’s not like cage-cleaning has to be done during regular business hours. Or for that matter, after hours animal care. The main reason for this to be mentioned now is because Lynn Johnston just realized she can’t take April back to Winnipeg in August, because that is when Liz’s wedding is going to take place. Lynn Johnston is notorious for plotting things as if the character knows something is going to happen before it happens. This does not quite qualify, but it's pretty close. The natural question to ask would be why April is going local when she went to Winnipeg the last 3 years, especially when you would think she would really want to check out the University of Manitoba pre-vet program, from which her aunt and cousin are alums.

2. Awards in music, performance and composition. April has not taken a music class since before high school. She has only done her band; so it is amusing that she mentions it for the first time here. What we have is pretty clearly a Lynn Johnston reaction to the criticism that April had to give up her music in order to concentrate on her academic studies. There were quite a few people (myself included), who found the idea that you could not do both music and academics to be insulting. As it turns out, April has been taking a music class all along, so she was only giving up her band and her boyfriend. Criticism answered in one panel.

3. The driver’s licence. aprilp_katje complained bitterly that if April had gotten her G1 licence when she said she was going to get it, then she would have already had her G2 by the time Lynn Johnston got around to doing her “Elly teaches April to drive” strip back in the Spring. Apparently Lynn listened and retconned her into a full licence. Congratulations, aprilp_katje. You are all powerful.

On a side note, I still don't see Dixie the dog, and I am afraid the answer this time, lies in April's driver's licence. Before, when she took Dixie to visit Grandpa Jim, someone else was driving. Now, it's probably April at the wheel. This could mean that April doesn't feel comfortable driving Dixie in the car with no one to handle her. Or Dixie may have gone the route of other characters in the strip, who simply disappear and never return, like Fiona Brass or Shannon Lake.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sunset Manor, Here He Comes

I had thought we were headed toward a Grandpa Jim arc, but I did not expect us to go to it so quickly with today’s For Better or For Worse. I thought we would have a few more days of Eva smackdown, but no. We have April visiting Grandpa Jim and he doesn’t look good; but it’s hard to tell. In his last appearances, Jim was in a wheelchair. Walking by himself is a big improvement, even if he looks weak while he is doing it.

Nevertheless, Lynn Johnston wrote about Iris’ reservation for Sunset Manor back in October and it seems highly unlikely she would do that, if she were not going to use it. Lynn’s style for the last several years has been to drop in a strip showing the future, and then not come back to it for months and sometimes years. This makes it fairly easy to predict the storylines if you are an avid reader of the strip as I am. For a casual reader, even one buying the collections covering 6-8 months of strips at a time, it would make little-to-no sense at all.

The difficulty of the next part is the characters in play. If Iris announces that Jim is going to Sunset Manor, I would hardly think that April would be the one to whom to break that news. Probably Elly would be a much better choice, in case there were details to work out. On the other hand, Elly has taken a hands-off approach to Iris’ control over Jim. It is possible that Iris may just announce it, and it is essentially a done deal with no argument. Then we say good-bye to Jim until he is wheeled in at Elizabeth’s wedding.

The other possibility would be to play off the idea that Iris has put Jim on a waiting list for Sunset Manor for 2 years and she finally gets the call that says a spot is open. Ignoring the idea that Iris would have put Jim on the list before he had stroke #1 and ignoring the fact that long term health facilities are not assigned this way in Ontario, i.e. using For Better or For Worse logic; this particular method could be done if April were there, or even just Dixie the dog. Iris could get a call, or check the mail and that would be it.

The key element is whether or not Lynn is able to tap into the emotions of the caregiver and the person moving into a full time care facility. That is going to be an emotional motherlode for many of Lynn Johnston's readers and there is a lot of good plot potential there. Let's hope she can pull this one off. It would be nice to have some good strips for a change.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Shop with April and Talk About Aphasia

I am suddenly gaining a certain degree of sympathy for Elly Patterson and her complaints about shopping with April. Today’s For Better or For Worse has April spending time in a men’s clothing store fondling ties and talking how she can’t figure out what to get Grandpa Jim when she goes to visit him. Why she can’t call up Iris and ask her what Jim needs, I don’t know. Pattersons are never very practical when it comes to things like that.

Ultimately April picks nothing, just as yesterday, after kvetching about Eva’s spending habits, April also bought nothing. If I were Eva, I would be close to saying, “Why are you in this store, when you told me earlier you don’t have enough money to buy anything?” Of course April might respond, “Get off my back. You like to try on clothes you don’t buy. I like to fondle men’s ties, I don't buy. My sister Liz said that there is something about a man’s tie that is very 'feelic’.” Then Eva would say, “Phallic.” Rim-shot.

What we are really after here is a reintroduction to Grandpa Jim and his health problem to be handled in soon-upcoming strips, which hasn’t been described in detail for some months. Most likely we are going to find that Sunset Manor, for which Iris has had Jim on the waiting list for 2 years is finally going to get that vacancy for Grandpa Jim. Given the time that is left before September, this is all that is left to do for Jim, aside from kill him off, which Lynn Johnston has sworn in interviews she doesn’t plan to do.

In real life, seniors have a great difficulty with allowing themselves to be taken to a place like Sunset Manor; because it is an acknowledgement that they are moving to the last place that they will live. There is an opportunity for Lynn Johnston to address those themes in a heart-warming way which will charm audiences everywhere. But more likely, it will be a crass joke like her first attempt.

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how many rude and crude “death” jokes, Lynn Johnston is going come up with.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Shopping with and without Daughters

There was a time when my wife would go to the clothing store and buy clothes for my daughter without asking her opinion on the matter. And then one magical day, my daughter informed my wife that she hated a particular outfit she had bought and she would not wear it. I would like to say this was the point at which my wife learned that she needed to take my daughter along on her clothes-shopping trips, so that she would not waste money on clothes my daughter would refuse to wear. However, this was a lesson hard-learned by my wife. After some travail, now they shop together, and my wife only buys clothes that my daughter will wear. This is not to say my daughter has expensive tastes in clothes. She does not. She prefers clothes with darker colours than my wife does. That's really all there is to it. A 10-year-old girl has different tastes than a woman in her 40s. My wife respects my daughter's opinions on clothes apparently more than Elly Patterson respects April's at 17 years old.

If I am interpreting today's For Better or For Worse correctly, April is not allowed the use of her mother's credit card. This essentially means that anything that costs more than what April has in cash requires mom and her credit card. And we know from seeing prior shopping trips with Elly and April, this means Elly must approve of the clothing being purchased. I really don't have a problem with this idea. I certainly would not let either of my children carry around one of my credit cards, and I would not want my daughter to start dressing to show a lot of skin, even if it is fashionable.

The real problem I have with the strip is the idea that there has to be a difference between "like" and "need". This is the crux of the complaint. Eva is buying a shirt she likes but says she does not need. In the case of my daughter, the two are essentially the same. She needs a shirt to wear. She will only wear the ones she likes. The solution is to buy her a shirt she likes, assuming it does not pass some boundary of taste or cost. In the case of Eva, we are talking a situation like, "She was supposed to only buy a belt, but came back with a shirt and a belt." The implication is that Eva's mom has done her some wrong by allowing her this freedom. Now Eva has wasted money on something she likes, but does not need. Is that really true? If she likes it, she will wear it and the clothing has a practical value. It's really only wasted if Eva buys it and never or rarely wears it.

What we don't know is whether or not Eva's mom is giving her free reign to spend all she wants, or if Eva's mom has said, "Stay within this limit, or I take the card away, and take back the clothes." It is implied that there something like this in the arrangement, because Eva uses the word "trust". Eva's mom trusts that Eva will not spend to excess. If Eva were an overspender, she would have bought more than just one belt yesterday, and the line today would be something along the lines of , "Bummer. I just get what I want and mom pays the bill."

The situation last year with April and Elly shopping for April is mostly still the same as this year. April is not trusted. Her decisions are not respected. The difference this year is that instead of complaining about it, April now believes her mom is right not to trust her. Otherwise she would end up like Eva, buying shirts she did not need but liked. With her credit card control, Elly Patterson would be with April, and she would say, "You already have 7 shirts, April, you don't need another one." And April says, "Thanks, mom for giving me these limits, because without you there is no telling how much I would spend." April was more of a normal teenager last year.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Eva Abuya, Girl of Mystery and Fashion

In the Milborough Mall, they have a clothing store with what I would say has unusual pipe work apparent in panels 1, 2, and 4 of today’s For Better or For Worse. I don’t know if this is modeled off of a particular store in North Bay, Ontario or not, as many of the stores in For Better or For Worse are. Nevertheless the use of the pipes is so prevalent and they are so low-hanging that they are used as a part of the display to hold clothes in panel 2.

Since Eva Abuya’s very first appearance, she has been presented as a clothes horse, almost always dressing better than April.

The other aspect of Eva was her background, which implied a certain sense of poverty. In this strip she hints that her background is a country where her home was a warzone, and she also takes April to task for complaining about the things she has.

Both of those elements come together nicely in today’s For Better or For Worse. Eva tries on many clothes and ultimately ends up selecting the only item she can probably afford, which is the belt she wears with every outfit. My favourite outfit is the one in the second panel, where Eva looks remarkably like DC Comics hero, the Karate Kid (no relationship to the movie version), and has a pose different from the glamour poses in the other panels. Of course, the hero Eva most resembles is Storm of the X-men, with that white hair.

The part that doesn’t really ring true in today’s strip is the idea that April is not trying on clothes too, and is gaping with mouth open at each outfit Eva wears. We know from this strip, that April likes to do that. The fact she is not doing that could be leading into yet another “April condemns her friend” sequence. April’s and the salesclerk’s expression in the final 2 panels, do not indicate approval of Eva trying on all those clothes to only buy one item.

For example, April used to gossip in malls about passersby with Becky McGuire. Then one day, April was too good to do that, which ultimately led to a permanent separation from Becky McGuire. We have seen April destroy her band, and ditch her boyfriend in the past year, as a ridiculous preparation for going to university; so this thought is not out of the realm of possibility. Personally, I hope this is not the direction we are going.

I wouldn’t mind a confrontation leading to April finding out the answer to a question which has bothered me since Eva Abuya came on the scene: Which country is she from? I have long suspected Nigeria, which has the capital city of Abuja, since Lynn Johnston sometimes likes place names (example Susan Dokis, from the Dokis First Nation).

The most we ever learned about her came from this monthly letter:

April's Letter, December 2005

I sit next to Eva in history class...I didn't know anybody at all in that class; all of my friends from our old school have history earlier in the day. Eva was new, and she looked a bit lost when she walked into class. I'm usually a little bit shy with people I don't know, so I don't know why I offered to be her partner when we were pairing up for an interview project, but I did. Really, it was selfish. I didn't want to be the last person to find a partner, and she didn't seem to know anyone either so I didn't think she'd turn me down. She turned out to be really cool, so I invited her to sit with me and Gerald at lunch. It would be nice if we got to be friends. She is really attractive. Her dad is black and her mom is white (sort of like Lawrence, but his dad's South American). She has thick blonde curly hair and dark skin, She has green eyes and this great smile. Duncan is crazy about her (he says), but is too shy to talk to her, much less ask her out, so he hangs with me a lot so he can see Eva more. I've never seen Duncan act so nervous before. It's funny, but I know where he's coming from.

It would have been fun to see April work as a matchmaker between Eva and Duncan, if only to see how Lynn Johnston would bungle it, as she seems to be bungling all the romances these days. However, it was basically completed from start to finish in these 2 strips. After that, Duncan and Eva were a couple, with no signs of any disagreement between them. Considering the Anthony and Liz romance, that was a pretty well-written romance for Lynn Johnston.

Dog Urine or Family Tree Planting? – Lynn Picks Dog

I realized this when I was writing up April’s Real Blog today using aprilp_katje's real-life 5K race as an activity April could be doing. There are so many things the Pattersons could do that would make for good stories, aside from doing the same old activities all the time. Why couldn’t April run a 5K, with her family supporting her? It would be different.

In today’s strip, aside from yet another For Better or For Worse strip where Edgar appears without Dixie (last seen in January), I find that this strip sequence with Elly and John putting in a tree is a classic example of Lynn Johnston failing to realize the potential in writing something other than the same old, “stop the dog from doing what dogs like to do” story. She has done that joke several times. Stop the dogs from rolling in the manure. Or the grass. Or from chasing the cat. Or from whizzing on the floor. Or from shaking off when coming in from the rain. Ho hum! Same old dog strip and joke.

Now, a story about John and Elly putting in a tree together, as mundane as that sounds, has not been touched in this strip. Imagine the dialogue possibilities: They could have a discussion with Lawrence Poirier about what kind of tree to buy, and why they end up settling on a birch, the same kind of tree which wrecked their roof shortly after buying the house. They could talk about the reason why John does not already own a shovel. They could discuss their decision to plant the tree themselves, instead of having Lakeshore Landscaping do it. We could see their back-and-forth discussion on the digging, watering, and placement of those rings and lines to hold the tree in place. They could even mention why their teenaged muscle, AKA April has not been called into do the heavy labour. They might even say something with respect to the question of “Where is John’s giant 3-lot train display in this almost tree-less and completely train-less yard?” More importantly, we could actually see a strip sequence with Elly and John doing something productive together, and without Elly sniping at John the whole time. How long has it been since we have seen that?

Instead the focus is on Edgar, and a bodily function joke involving dog urination. Sigh. Lynn Johnston. I know you only have 3 months left before you end this strip, but you don’t have to make the focus of every single strip a recycle of some joke you have done before.